Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has reopened its doors to students for the 2020/21 academic year. Second, third and fourth-year students recommenced their studies yesterday, Monday, 14th September, with first-year students due to start their studies later this month.
This academic year, students are receiving a blend of on-campus and real-time remote learning. While the majority of modules will be delivered on campus, where appropriate physical distancing cannot be accommodated (e.g. in the case of larger class groups), students will engage in coursework via the virtual classroom.
According to AIT’s President, Professor Ciarán Ó Cathain, students will still benefit from the incredible learner-lecturer and peer interactivity for which AIT is known. “On-campus education is an integral part of the student experience – something which is recognised right across the Irish and, indeed, international higher education sector; its benefits cannot be overstated,” he explained.
“Students will primarily experience traditional on-campus learning, as face-to-face interaction with lecturers and peers is an integral part of the student experience. As most of our class sizes are small, this will allow for this level of interaction. Our practical classes, such as tutorials and laboratories, will also take place on campus with social distancing applied,” Professor Ó Catháin added.
“We have made a significant investment in Zoom Education technology to enable us to replicate the live classroom environment wherever on-campus delivery cannot be facilitated. This, along with Moodle, will provide high-quality, real-time engagement with lecturers and peers.”
He continued: “Regardless of the mode of delivery, we are committed to delivering a fulfilling and enriching academic and student experience while protecting the academic integrity of our programmes and awards and abiding by all public health guidelines.”
A significant body of work has been undertaken by management and staff across the institute over the summer months to ensure that a return to campus is both safe and feasible for students and staff.
Several stringent safety measures have been introduced to ensure the wellbeing of AIT’s campus community, among them enhanced cleaning rotas, one-way corridor systems, physical distancing floor markers, Perspex cafeteria dividers, and additional cleaning attendants. More than 700 hand hygiene stations have also been installed across the AIT campus.
Welcoming students back to campus, Vice President, Academic Affairs and Registrar Frances O’Connell said: “Our students’ health, safety and wellbeing are of critical importance to us as an institute, and we are committed to delivering a quality academic and student experience, despite the restrictions imposed by the current public health emergency.
“We are taking every measure necessary to ensure that our campus community can continue to thrive. Keeping one another safe from COVID-19 is a shared responsibility, and we are asking students to mind themselves, their peers and the wider community by adhering to public health guidance. It is imperative that we act in a safe, responsible manner both on and off campus to protect the vulnerable among us,” she added.
As part of its reopening plans, AIT has published a Student COVID-19 Guide to provide support and guidance as to its policies and procedures and how it plans to keep students safe on campus this coming semester. Inside the guide, students can find advice on topics like transport and how to get to college safely, accommodation, general health advice, student supports and more.
AIT has also created a Campus Updates hub, where students will find a a list of FAQs, general guidance and live COVID-19 updates. The hub is designed to answer topical questions, thereby alleviating some stress or concerns that students may have. The institute has also set up a dedicated email@example.com email as an additional support to students and staff.
Athlone Institute of Technology is a research-led third level institute with an applied, industry-focussed offering, world-class research and development capabilities, and state-of-the-art facilities. Winner of The Sunday Times Institute of the Year 2020 and 2018, AIT is Ireland’s top-ranked institute and is on track to become the country’s next technological university. AIT tops Ireland’s official league table for research and was listed in U-Multirank’s Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research in 2018 and 2019. For information relating to the institute’s undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, visit www.ait.ie.